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|27 reviews in total|
If you don't already know, let me tell you: I don't like musicals. I
find them to be grating, poorly made, horribly uninteresting affairs.
I've never quite understood the logic behind someone breaking into a
song and dance routine and singing about their deepest, most secret
feelings. If you're secretly in love, it might be best not to do a
Bollywood number entitled "I'm in Love!" right in the middle of town.
It kind of kills the secret. Also, musicals are always so damn
fanciful. Why not do a realistic one? I can just see a musical with a
number called "I Just Had an Abortion, and I Feel Fine". That, my
friends, would be Academy Award gold.
But no, musicals are never realistic. They tell stories about inner-city gangs who fight with their words and Plies', or nightclub whores for hire with TB who have hearts of gold. And, somehow, people eat this stuff up like it's going out of style, and fast. Honestly, if you've seen one musical you've seen almost all of them. So why do people go to them in droves?
One musical in particular perplexes me most. "The Sound of Music" tells the tale of a naive nun who leaves her convent to raise seven children with a collected IQ so small that, if brains were gas, they couldn't power a motorcycle around the outside of a penny. Together the nanny and the kids sing and sing and sing pointless songs like "Do Re Mi" and the titular track, "The Sound of Music". There's also, "My Favorite Things" in which it is revealed that brown paper packages tied with string make people happy. Well, I suppose the brown paper and string couldn't possibly be as boring as this film.
"The Sound of Music" is not one of those films that is so bad it's good. It's one of the ones that's so bad it makes me want to burn the theater to the ground. If anything, it's the most offensively numb portrayal of World War II ever made. Here we see World War II as a swirling, candy-colored vortex of happiness. Instead of death and terror, the Nazis bring sunshine and lollipops to the world of Maria and the Von Trapp kids. Even in the middle of being chased by Nazi tanks, the Von Trapp clan have time to stop and sing an ode to their beloved hills. Apparently, Hitler had a soft-spot for musical numbers. Why else would the Nazi's stop chasing them long enough to hear "The hills are alive..."?
Look, it's not like I'm saying I wanted a hard-hitting WWII epic, but I would prefer to not have my intelligence insulted. Even the simplest things in this movie are insultingly stupid. Look at Papa von Trapp. He's an Austrian naval officer. Sincewhen does Austria, a land-locked area, have the need for a Navy? Where is this guy sailing, the Olympic pool at the nearest five-star hotel?
The addition of Julie Andrews into this horrific misfire only makes things worse. Of all the movie musical stars, Julie Andrews is the worst by far. She can't sing to save her life and she has the acting range of a less skillful Keanu Reeves. When you're less than Keanu, you know it's time to pack your bags and leave the business. The kids are no better. They're the kind of kid actors who strive way too hard to be cute. They are what I call Lipnickian children, in honor of Jonathan Lipnicki, the world's worst child star.
"The Sound of Music" was directed by Robert Wise, the recently deceased director of such films as "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and the original "The Haunting". Somewhere in between those two classics, Wise managed to create this steaming turd. How a fine director like Wise got dragged into a project like this is beyond the realm of understanding.
I don't know if Wise ever apologized for making this, but he should have because true fans of his other works would never have seen this coming and, if they're like me, they were not happy. Look at it like this: if Michael Bay, crappy action movie virtuoso, were to direct "Wicked: The Movie Musical", do you think fans of his "Armageddon" (should they exist) would be pleased?
I think that, deep down in the darkest, slimiest part of their heart,
everyone likes Jerry Springer just a little bit. While his show is
undeniably offensive and stupid, it also gives us a chance to see that,
relatively speaking, most of us have it real good. When you look at the
trailer park livin', dollar whiskey drinkin', incest lovin' people on
the Springer show, it makes even your worst day seem like a walk in the
park. Jerry is performing a public service, and we should be grateful.
He ditched a political career to host the show, just for us.
What we should not be grateful for in any way is the piece of garbage movie "Ringmaster". "Ringmaster" shows what life is like for people who wind up being guests on the show, or so they would like us to think. The movie follows the pre-requisite Springer story line: Love triangles. One triangle involves Connie, her daughter Angel, and her husband Rusty. The other involves Starletta, Vonda, and Demond. When the two hapless groups meet up in LA, their lives intertwine and collide head-on, all culminating in an explosive episode of the Springer show. It's like what "Short Cuts" would be if Robert Altman had had a severe crack habit.
"Ringmaster" is true to the show, as it is stupid and offensive from start to finish. It also makes me very glad that I don't live in the squalor it's characters do. But the movie has a problem. It's billed as a comedy, but it just isn't very funny. What laughs there are to be had are few and far between. Maybe some people watch this and laugh non-stop. If you think blow jobs and rape are funny, well then I guess you're one of those folks. Personally, I laughed two or three times and spent the rest of the movie in utter awe of the agonizing horrors of white-trash life.
The Jerry Springer Show just isn't meant to make the leap from TV to the silver screen. What's funny in an hour long show (less, when you count commercials) isn't necessarily going to be funny in a ninety minute movie. Movies have to tell a story, and that's something else "Ringmaster" has trouble with. The story is threadbare. There are so many plot holes and continuity errors that any attempt at telling a cohesive narrative is quickly put asunder. And even if there weren't such problems, how much fun can you pull out of a story of stereotypical people in a stereotypical story? Even the Hollywood formula couldn't make this better. "Ringmaster: is so bad, it even screws up the best part of the Springer show: the Final Thought. Somehow, even the smartest and simplest aspect of the show wound up blowing harder than the slutty women the film is built around.
The worst offender in all of this is Springer himself. He's such a bad actor that he can't even play himself convincingly. Watching Springer play Springer is sad. It's like he was going for a 'What if Woody Allen played Jerry Springer' vibe, and he failed. Miserably. He went to the trouble of producing this disaster, the least he could do is try to make it just that much better.
Not that I'm saying everyone else in this movie put in an award worthy performance. Just the opposite. They all suck. Not so surprisingly, no one in this movie went on to greatness. The best any of them was did was Molly Hagan landing a job on a Nickelodeon sitcom. Apparently, Nickelodeon has no problem with hiring a woman who starred in the most vile film of the '90's to star in a children's program. It makes you wonder what kind of things the other adults on that channel have done in their pasts.
Here are my Final Thoughts: What we have here is a group of people with no self respect and a man with money to burn, who have met and put their resources together to produce a film that shows how much they hate themselves and how little they think of the intelligence of their viewing audience. Should we accept people who make movies that treat us like severely brain-damaged lumps of goo? I say no. Somewhere out there, in this crazy, mixed up world, there is a perfect movie for each of us. We just have to keep looking for it. Until next time, take care of yourselves and your loved ones. And don't ever watch "Ringmaster".
Were it a chocolate bar, Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate
Factory" would be dark and bitter. Just the way I like it. Staying
closer to the source material than the 1971 version did, "Charlie"
gives Roald Dahl fans reason to rejoice. No longer is Willy Wonka the
sunny, cheery twit that Gene Wilder crafted. In the hands of Johnny
Depp, Wonka is a twisted, depraved, and sadistic man. He takes great
pleasure in the thought of putting spoiled children through pain and
suffering, and he doesn't mind admitting that he hates grown-ups of all
stripes. This is how Wonka should be.
Another improvement over the original is the Oompa Loompas. Their original back story, not told in the first film, is told here. Also they sing the songs from the book, not that garbage from the first film. The musical numbers are inspired, ranging from Bollywood musical to rock and roll to pop ballad. Deep Roy, who plays every Oompa Loompa, does a fantastic job of giving the characters life and making them a little scary even if they are only one foot tall.
We also have Tim Burton's stunning vision to bring the quirky tale to life. The factory is a candy-colored den of nightmares with boiling hot rivers of chocolate and torturous uses for seemingly benign candy making machinery. But the interesting thing is that Burton makes the factory as pathetic as it is menacing. Willy's mechanical greeters at the gate explode and his pipes burst and the very mention of the word "parents" brings everything to a screeching halt.
Willy, as it turns out, had a dentist for a father, and thusly never knew the joy of candy until he ran away. And when he tried to return home, Willy found that his father had left and taken the house with him. So Willy locked himself away inside his factory, where he developed a complexion so pale that he actually seems to absorb light like a black hole. He retains the maturity of an infant and the mentality of a candy-addicted twelve-year-old, making him a societal pariah even though everyone adores his confections.
No, Willy Wonka is not a pleasant character. He's not meant to be. He's meant to be a depraved freak who learns to grow up with the help of the world's most mature little boy, Charlie Bucket. Freddie Highmore is incredible as Charlie. He gives the character so much emotional weight that he easily blows the previous incarnation of Charlie right out of the water. Depp hand-picked Highmore for the role, and it's obvious why. Highmore shows the potential to be as talented an actor as Depp, with just as glorious a career.
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is a film that will put a smile on the face of older fans of the book, and nightmares inside the minds of young newcomers. And that's how Roald Dahl would want it. The story may be bitter and dark, but it will leave a good taste in your mouth. This is one of the year's finest and perhaps Tim Burton's best.
PS: Some folks might say Depp fashioned Wonka after Michael Jackson. I say Jackson fashioned himself after Wonka. Either way, they're both kind of sad.
"Wedding Crashers" is an oddity. It's a film I appreciate, but not one
I particularly like. It has all the makings of a great comedy: witty
dialogue, raunchy humor and Owen Wilson, a genius actor. All these
pieces mesh perfectly, and yet I just was not thrilled. By the end I
had the odd feeling that my soul was completely drained, and I lurched
to my car like a zombie.
The film makes good points about the nature of relationships and expertly satirizes guys like it's titular characters, men who go to weddings uninvited to score chicks. There was even a wonderful scene early on featuring costar Vince Vaughn delivering a rapid-fire speech about the "does she or doesn't she like me" nature of first dates that deserves applause as a short masterpiece.
The real failing, I think, is having Owen Wilson's character, John, fall in love. The first portion of the film, showing John and buddy Jeremy actually crashing weddings is hilarious and quick paced. Then John meets Claire Cleary, falls in love, and goes on the worn-out mission of one-upping her secretly evil boyfriend, Sack. The laughs quickly fade in favor of straight-up romance, returning only occasionally to liven things up. Jeremy's story line of being raped by his obsessive wedding date and, later, her gay brother is good stupid fun in the style of "There's Something About Mary" and other films of its ilk. The main story, which amounts to John making moon-eyes at Claire and Claire returning the sentiment as Sack schemes, would be an average romantic movie on it's own, but it drags down what was a great comedy.
The acting is hit-or-miss. Vince Vaughn is superb as the beleaguered Jeremy. His physical comedy is tempered with his verbal wit to perfectly balance the two. Isla Fisher is also great as Jeremy's obsessed wedding crashing victim Gloria, who goes all out to get her man even though he's decidedly done with her.
Owen Wilson, one of my favorite actors, is listless and dim as John. Romance is not Owen's thing at all, and it kills me to say he was horribly bad. But that's what it is. Rachael McAdams and Bradley Cooper are stereotypical and mundane as Claire and Sack. They phoned in their performances and, man oh man, it shows and it hurts.
Christopher Walken, who is normally hilarious, is forced to check his comedic persona at the door to play the straight-laced Commerce Secretary Cleary. Walken could have saved this film if he'd been allowed to show his zany side.
I really do appreciate every aspect of the film. It has great comedy, fair enough romance, and some brilliant acting to cover for all the bad stuff. I just can't bring myself to give it a fresh rating. Maybe romance and comedy just don't belong together (that would explain "Just Married" and every Julia Roberts film aside from "Sleeping with the Enemy"). I thought 'this is pretty good', but I didn't feel it.
"Wedding Crashers" is what you'd call an 'aborted masterpiece'. It starts strong, and then shoots itself dead half-way through. The second half of this film reminds me of a line from Errol Morris' "Gates of Heaven": "There's your dog. Your dog's dead. But where's the thing that made it move? It had to be something...didn't it?" This dog died too soon, and I'm not sure what happened to the thing that made it move in the first place. It's a captivating mystery.
"Must Love Dogs" is a charming flick about dating in the age of
matchmaker websites. It's a light and effervescent film that doesn't
try to be anything but what it is: a romantic comedy. There's no
piercing satire of internet romance. In fact there's not any statement
about internet romance. It's just a new starting point for what is,
basically, the same old romcom formula. Woman meets man. Woman falls
for man. Man falls for woman. Trouble arises.
But while it follows that formula "Must Love Dogs" feels different, thanks to Diane Lane and John Cusack who are both in top form here. Lane is pitch-perfect as Sarah, a divorcée who can't seem to get back into the dating game. Eventually her sister, Carol, sets Sarah up for internet romance. Cusack plays Jake, the man that Sarah meets after Carol adds "Must love dogs" to Sarah's profile. He doesn't own a dog, but he does love them. He also soon comes to love Sarah, although his nervousness about internet romance causes him to constantly flub his compliments. He is also recently divorced and is still smarting over the way his wife left him. Cusack is a master actor, and he does some of his best work here. He gets the sweetness and sadness of his character across just right.
Of course, there winds up being another man in Sarah's life. It's Bobby, the father of one of her students. Bobby is separated from his wife temporarily, but Sarah can't see that that means he just wants to get laid and not to form a lasting relationship. Jake sees Sarah and Bobby together, and decides to stay far away from her afterward.
Sarah's family members get their fair share of time. Carol is the nosy sister who knows everything, sometimes before it even happens. Patriarch Bill is also in on the internet dating craze and is balancing three women at once, and all three know it and accept it. One of those women, Dolly, winds up in some internet romantic trouble when a teenage boy with dyslexia misreads her profile and thinks she's sixteen instead of sixty-one. Dolly also acts as the voice of experience for Sarah. Dolly's been married many times, and divorced at least three. Stockard Channing is fantastic in this role, making Dolly a rock for Sarah as she struggles to figure out her feelings.
What I really like about this film is that it's actually very funny. Unlike, oh say "Wedding Crashers", "Must Love Dogs" balances romance and comedy and lets them co-exist on screen. While they may be the same jokes we've heard a thousand times before, the cast of "Must Love Dogs" is talented enough to make them seem like brand new. I laughed a lot, and for that I can offer nothing but praise.
It doesn't break any new ground, but "Must Love Dogs" is worth seeing. If you've seen a romcom, then you know how Sarah and Jake's story will end up. It's the journey towards that end that matters, and "Must Love Dogs" is a delightful journey.
During the 1988 presidential campaign, Democratic hopefuls spiritedly
canvass the country and jostle for their party's nomination and the
honor of opposing Republican Vice President George Bush when
congressman Jack Tanner emerges from a long political hiatus to
challenge such opponents as Al Gore, Michael Dukakis, Gary Hart and
Jesse Jackson. The Tanner campaign appears at all the events and
interacts with many important figures. What no one seems to realize, or
particularly care about, is that Jack Tanner doesn't even exist.
Michael Murphy stars in this hilarious and biting satire of media-age
politics - relevant now more than ever.
Renegade filmmaker Robert Altman and Pulitzer-winning Doonesbury cartoonist G.B. Trudeau created the Jack Tanner character, but they couldn't hope to predict the frenzy he'd create. Politicians were eager to meet him, and more than happy to pretend they knew him. If it would make them look good, of course. Everyone from Pat Roberston to Bob Dole happily talked to Jack and his crew, knowing he had a media blitz surrounding him. The catch is they didn't know why he had a blitz around him.
Altman and crew were constantly filming Michael Murphy as he took the Tanner role and ran with it, frequently improvising, as Trudeau couldn't keep up with the goings-on well enough to script half of what Murphy did. What Trudeau did script was the behind-the-scenes action of the Tanner campaign. Campaign Manager T.J. Cavanaugh (masterfully portrayed by Pamela Reed) and her slew of assistants hustled and bustled in their HQ, desperately trying to spin everything Jack did to make him look 'For real', so as to match his slogan. Unfortunately, as T.J. put it, 'things happen to this man'.
Tanner has a lot of problems both in front of and behind the camera. First there's the camera-man Deke, who reads Jack's diary and puts his personal thoughts into campaign commercials and, after being fired, joins the NBC news crew that is assigned to follow Jack, which gives Deke even more chances to ruin Jack's life. Secondly there's the fact that Jack has fallen deeply in love with Michael Dukakis' (fictitious) campaign manager, Joanna Buckley. Thirdly, Jack's daughter, Alex, bounces between free-spiritedness and megalomania, both of which make Jack look bad. Last, but not least, is the fact that Jack never takes a definite stance on anything except drug legalization. This makes him look like more of a hippy than a politician.
Over the course of six hours and eleven episodes, Altman and Trudeau use their characters and the real politicians to weave a brilliant fable about the state of politics in a world where image means more than qualifications and standards. Pathetic as it may be, it's true. In most of the encounters Jack has with politicians it is quite clear that these people have no idea what is going on, yet they still pretend to be completely in control. When we put them in the White House, do they know what they're doing or are they just pretending to be completely in control? "Tanner '88" is a mockumentary that actually has a point, and makes that point very well.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Please, retain your faith in the final victory! If you lead us, we
will follow!' By the time these words are spoken to Adolf Hitler it is
far too late for him to be able to reassure the hysteric woman who said
them. He knows, as all his Generals know, that World War II is over.
And Germany has lost. However, as his mental stability declines Hitler
will forget this and try, once again, to win. Moving forces that exist
only on his map and calling in strikes by planes that were destroyed
months earlier, Hitler fights until his last to protect the crumbled
remains of what was once his evil empire. He pores over models that
represent the new cities he believes he will build, and no one has the
courage to tell him that his Aryan Xanadu will never exist as anything
but these models.
This is "Der Untergang (The Downfall)". The film is inspired by the memoirs of Traudl Junge, Hitler's last secretary and oblivious follower. Traudl stands at the Fuhrer's side and refuses to move despite lacking all knowledge of him, even his Holocaust. The confused young woman watches in horror as Hitler's Generals turn their backs on him, and she weeps when she finds the remains of her leader's brains scattered across a wall following a fateful gun shot.
"Downfall" has a tricky goal: to show the human side of Hitler. No, it's not about making you sympathize with him. It's about showing that he wasn't some superhuman. Bruno Ganz's performance as Hitler, one of the towering performances in cinema history, exposes faults in the Fuhrer. Physically, his hands twitch uncontrollably and his back is hunched as if burdened with a massive load of shame and humiliation. Mentally, he rants about wanting to speak to soldiers he knows are dead and he fabricate stories about Nazi forces hiding in Prussia, waiting to rush in and save Germany from encroaching Russian armies. As he tells these stories to his friends and confidants, you can see he is telling them to reassure himself, and not his friends.
Then comes the final collapse. Hitler shoots his wife, Eva Braun, and then himself so as to prevent being captured and forced to face the music. Magda Goebells poisons her children, and then sits down to a game of solitaire before facing her own death. Joseph Goebells tries to salvage the German army, but finally gives in and shoots his wife and himself. Slowly but surely, every one of the Nazi officers in Hitler's bunker commits suicide.
Traudl finally accepts that it is over, and joins the German army as it moves to the front lines to surrender. Finally, she passes through the Russian front. While she may have lived in freedom physically, it is doubtful she ever escaped the mental image of what she saw, and the horrible truth she learned about her Fuhrer's crimes.
While we may have heard many ex-Nazi's and Nazi sympathizers claim to be oblivious to Hitler's true evil, Traudl Junge is the only one I'd ever believe. When the real Traudl appeared on screen at the end of the film and said she never knew of the Holocaust until the war ended, I felt sympathy for her and I understood the power Hitler had to blind young people and lead them astray.
"Downfall" has been surrounded by controversy since it debuted at the Toronto film festival last year. Critics said it sympathized too much with Hitler, which is obviously not true when you watch it. Others said it goes too far in it's depiction of Hitler's last days. Perhaps some people can not handle the sight of exploding heads and severed limbs, but to say this film goes too far is insane. How should this film depict it's subject? With sunshine and lollipops? World War II was brutal and, as such, so should any film depicting it be. Some people won't be able to handle it, but that's why we humans have discretion. We can decide what is okay for ourselves, and we can say no to whatever we think is bad for us. You don't have to watch this film.
"Downfall" is a vivid, graphic, firsthand reminder of the depth of Hitler's evil. It's makers are simply spreading the message that trying to forget evil will not change it's affect on us. Why shouldn't we depict Hitler in art the way "Downfall"'s makers have? It might be easier to live without thinking of him and seeing his human traits, but it wouldn't be any better to live that way.
This film should become required viewing for history classes.
The oppressed people of Africa finally have a voice. The voice of a
white woman from Australia. Nicole Kidman's character in "The
Interpreter" hails from Matoba, an African country ruled by a cruel
dictator. She claims to have heard about a plot to assassinate said
dictator. When she is questioned, she admits to hating him, and goes
off on a diatribe about oppression, genocide, and the lies this
dictator told to gain power in the first place. She does this over and
over for two hours.
The real problem is that she has no point. She just rambles like the standard crazy hobo on an NYC subway who talks to pee stains and smells like a municipal dump. The whole movie is like this. It starts off being about an assassination, than goes to a hunt for a prowler, then goes over to terrorism, and then it snaps back to the assassination and comes to a confusing, pointless, and infuriatingly insipid conclusion. It's like when the hobo finishes his story about the monster in his brain with "I need about three-fitty" and you know he's going to use it to buy crack and alcohol.
Nicole Kidman is about as convincing as an Afrikaner as Woody Allen would be as an action star. Her faux-British accent and pasty white skin make it seem more like she's an incredibly pretentious Canadian woman than an oppressed and fed-up Matoban. I find it hard to believe that Sydney Pollack expects us to buy this act. It's kind of insulting, but the fact that he directed this sludge is punishment enough for him. "The Interpreter" is an embarrassment for Pollack who can, and has, done better. I've seen Richard Simmons infomercials that would look like Hitchcock compared to this movie.
I'm guessing that the United Nations regrets allowing Pollack and company to film in their building. "The Interpreter" is about as flattering to the UN as Joan Rivers is to people on the Red Carpet at the Oscars. The security breaches seen in this film make it look like the UN is run by monkeys with bad crack habits who spend eighteen hours a day passed out on the couch covered in Cheez-Doodle dust. I'll bet Pollack didn't tell them too much about the plot when he first pitched the idea. There's no way he could have gotten in otherwise.
As a whole, "The Interpreter" is a bad joke. Even in individual pieces it's laughably awful.
This is the cinematic equivalent of "Why did the chicken cross the road?".
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"I'm going to be a mommy," says Aviva, the multi-faced protagonist of
controversial director Todd Solondz's "Palindromes". After her parents
force her to have an abortion at the age of thirteen, Aviva runs away
and hopes to get pregnant again. What she doesn't know is that the
doctor at the clinic slipped-up, and left her sterile.
Solondz has never been one to go mainstream, or make "fun" movies. His works, such as "Welcome to the Dollhouse" (which "Palindromes" is a kinda/sorta sequel to) are uncomfortable to watch. Why? Because they are more truthful and honest then we expect a movie to be. Solondz shows real-life issues in lower and middle class American families who face the harshest realities, and he pulls no punches. This is not your typical multi-plex fare. Not at all.
"Palindromes" is about Aviva, cousin of Dawn Wiener from "Welcome to the Dollhouse". Dawn has just recently killed herself (no surprise there, really), and a five-year old, and black, Aviva vows to never be like her cousin. Eight years later, Aviva (now white, teenaged, and overweight) has her first sexual encounter and gets pregnant. Her mother (Ellen Barkin, in a truly inspired performance) tells Aviva (still white, but now skinny and with red hair) that she will have to have an abortion. Aviva is devastated, as she longs to be a mother. Following the botched procedure, Aviva runs away and embarks on a transformative journey.
You've likely guessed that the transformation here is physical, not spiritual. Aviva changes appearance from chapter to chapter, but the person she is inside never changes. Whether she's a skinny white girl or a massive black woman Aviva is still a lost little girl, adrift in a world she can't understand. All she has to go by are her warped perceptions of love, which lead her to the arms of a pervert who likes to go out and kill abortion doctors in his free time.
"Palindromes" leans heavily to the side of pro-life. Solondz vilifies abortion clinics and pro-choicers to an almost extreme degree. Here are examples:
Aviva's mother refers to an unborn child as being "like a tumor". Aviva is shown a dump where aborted fetus' are haphazardly thrown away. The clinic botches the abortion. Aviva's pro-choice family includes an accused child molester.
I was rather shocked at first, being a pro-choice person myself, but I can not deny that Solondz has created a powerful indictment of the practice of abortion. I'll never give up the pro-choice platform (everyone has a right to choose, after all), but now I'm not so sure I'd ever personally want an abortion for any of my loved ones.
Solondz also shows that unwanted children don't necessarily have to be aborted, and that they can have good lives if adopted or sent to foster homes. When Aviva meets Mama Sunshine, "mother to all of God's children", we are shown a household where disabled and sick children can lead happy lives. Mama Sunshine has taken in blind children, crippled children, limbless children, and retarded children, and she gives them all good lives. It makes you wonder if Aviva couldn't have given her child a life like this rather than having to be forced to kill it.
At the end of it all "Palindromes" ends appropriately. IE: as it began. There is a wonderful scene in which Aviva's (supposedly) perverted relative makes a speech about how no one changes, how life is essentially a palindrome. It makes us wonder if the effort Aviva went through to change things was worth it, when we know where she'll always end up. Or do we? Does life have to be a palindrome? Or is there a way to change that, once and for all?
This is the year's boldest, most provocative film. It is fearless in it's search for answers, and it requires the viewer to be fearless if they are to get anything out of watching. Please see this film. And don't be afraid to question yourself afterwards.
"Palindromes" is not a film with answers to the questions, it's a film with questions about our answers.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Here's a movie that couldn't find major distribution, and for a good
reason. "Uncle Nino" is so bland, unoriginal, cliché, stereotypical,
and in-your-face wholesome that I almost forgot I was watching a movie
and not a live action episode of Davie and Goliath with an Itailan kook
in place of the dog, and Joe Mantegna in place of the lobotomized dweeb
"Uncle Nino" follows the conventional 'family discord' plot: Mom and Dad (Mantegna and Anne Archer) are too busy with work to raise the kids. The kids, therefore, are rebels. Fourteen-year-old Bobby (Trevor Morgan) TP's houses with the members of his band, called "Carp" for one of the most ridiculous reasons I've ever heard, and together they commandeer Bobby's garage. This is, of course, to the chagrin of Bobby's parents. Twelve-year-old sis Gina (Gina Mantegna. Ah...nepotism) wants a puppy, stays at her friend's house all day, and watches Animal Planet all night. Yes, in the world of "Uncle Nino", watching Animal Planet is a sign of rebellion.
Then the kooky Italian Uncle shows up, and fixes everything. How? Apparently foreigners are magic. Or at least they have a never-ending supply of money to provide pets, garden make-overs, and anything else necessary to an ailing family. Nino joins Bobby's band and makes them sound good; he gives Gina a puppy and warms mom's heart; he plants a garden and reminds dad of his childhood. If you think I have in any way ruined this film for you, then you need to get help. If you can't see the ending coming from the first frame of the film, you are severely, cripplingly retarded.
"Uncle Nino" makes sure to throw in some lessons about fate, mortality, and every other subject that it's writers obviously don't know jack about. They tried to give us a dramatic moment when Nino visits his brother's grave for the very first time. Nino was in prison when his brother died, and after that he waited thirty-six more years to come. Why? Let's turn to resident fatalist Joe Mantegna for an answer: "Maybe you weren't supposed to come to America when he died, so that you could come now. I know that without you here, I'd never appreciate the best things in my life." Oh shut up.
The real answer why he didn't come is this: he messed up. And then, when he was free from prison, he just didn't care enough to come, and forgot. Then, thirty-six years later, he remembered that he didn't want to rot in hades for eternity, and he came to try and get a good word in with his apparently saintly deceased brother.
Okay, so maybe I'm being too cynical, but the movie does little to make me think otherwise. I wanted to like "Uncle Nino", really I did. The uncle character is funny at times, and probably deserved to be in a better film than this. His earliest scenes, wandering through an airport for the first time in his life, are sweet and comical. But as soon as the American family shows up, the sweetness hits an overload level and the comedy all but dies.
I was rather amazed to find that this isn't director Robert Shallcross' first film. "Uncle Nino" is so sloppily handled and so full of cliché soft-focus shots that I thought I was hopped up on morphine and drifting in and out of consciousness. I had to blink my eyes a few times before I realized that it was supposed to look so fuzzy in those scenes. Good grief.
I don't think I need to get into how atrocious the screenplay is. I've already said enough there.
The acting is less than TV quality, except for Pierrino Mascarino, who makes Nino as charming as he possibly can. Alas, he can't save this film. Joe Mantegna, in my mind, lives in the shadow of his Fat Tony character from the Simpsons. I can't help but see Tony on screen in place of Mantegna. Maybe if Joe did something to, you know, surpass Fat Tony he might have something. The rest of the cast is just...I'm not even going to dignify it with a comment.
"Uncle Nino" is a TV movie of the week blown up onto a big screen. Try as it might to be special or different, it is neither. It's just like any other sitcom family movie. I'll give it credit, though, it gave me a few smiles in Nino's early scenes. If only it had been like that all the way through. If only Nino had gotten a better script. If only, if only...
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